We are multitudes
Women are chimeras, with genetic material from both their parents and children. Where does that leave individual identity?
Katherine Rowland is a journalist. Her work has appeared in Nature, the Financial Times, the Independent, OnEarth and other publications. She is the publisher and director of Guernicamagazine, and lives in New York City.
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When Lee Nelson first began researching autoimmune disorders in the 1980s, the prevailing assumption was that conditions such as arthritis and lupus tend to show up more commonly in women because they are linked to female sex hormones. But to Nelson, a rheumatologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, this explanation did not make sense. If hormones were the culprit, one would expect these afflictions to peak during a woman’s prime reproductive years, when instead they typically appear later in life.
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The self emerging from microchimeric research appears to be of a different order: porous, unbounded, rendered constituently. Nelson suggests that each human being is not so much an isolated island as a dynamic ecosystem. And if this is the case, the question follows as to how this state of collectivity changes our conscious and unconscious motivations. If I am both my children and my mother, if I carry traces of my sibling and remnants of pregnancies that never resulted in birth, does that change who I am and the way I behave in the world? If we are to take to heart Whitman’s multitudes, we encounter an I composed of shared identity, collective affiliations and motivations that emerge not from a mean and solitary struggle, but a group investment in greater survival.
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I found this to be stunning and paradigm shifting.
How do you make sense of all these factoids?
Not sure what to make of all this.
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